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BIA finds "Extreme Hardship" for Deportation Purposes where US Citizen Child is "Completely Integrated Into The American Lifestyle"
by Carl R. Baldwin

In a decision dated May 4, 2001, the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) held that total acclimation to American ways may make it an “extreme hardship” for a teenager to be forced back to an unknown parental home country, especially if the teenager has not mastered the language of that country.

The cases are Matter of Kao and Matter of Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45 (BIA 2001). The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), prior to the 1996 “reform,” provided that an alien could be eligible for suspension of deportation if, after seven years or more of continuous physical presence in the United States, good moral character during that time, and no conviction for certain criminal offenses, he or she proved that deportation would cause “extreme hardship” to himself or herself or to a U.S. citizen or legal resident spouse, child, or parent. Former INA 244(a). The 1996 law made life more difficult for the alien by requiring, for “Cancellation of Removal,” ten years or more of continuous physical presence, good moral character during that time, no conviction for certain criminal offenses, and that removal would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to the U.S. citizen or legal resident spouse, child, or parent. Hardship to the alien does not count and cannot be considered under the 1996 law. INA 240A (b). The respondents, nationals of Taiwan and parents of five U.S. citizen children, gave detailed testimony and expressed their concern about the effects of deportation on their children, and especially on their eldest child, a teenager whose knowledge of Chinese was fragmentary. The Board regretted that this child had not been a witness, but was satisfied with the testimony of the parents. It concluded: “These children have lived their entire lives in the United States and are completely integrated into their American lifestyles…We are satisfied that to uproot the oldest daughter, Claire, at this stage of her education and social development and to require her to survive in a Chinese-only environment would be a significant disruption that that would constitute extreme hardship.” An interesting footnote to the case involves its lucky timing for the respondents. An Order to Show Cause was served on the parents on March 10, 1997, shortly before the effective date of the 1996 law on April 1, 1997. Had the charging document been served on or after April 1, the “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” standard would have applied. In a case decided on the same day as the case under discussion, the Board made it very clear that the new standard is considerably more demanding than the old one. How young Claire would have fared under the new standard is an interesting, although fortunately for her academic, question.

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from